The 17-year-old McLaren junior, Lando Norris, will compete in the 24 Hours of Daytona in January 2018 alongside the ‘Spanish Samurai’ Fernando Alonso… not that this impresses Williams’ Lance Stroll.
McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris will compete in the classic endurance sports car race at Daytona, one of the great long-distance classics in January next year. Alonso, keen to enrich his racing repertoire and look beyond his fading and disappointing Formula One career whilst the young Norris sees it as another building block to get into Formula 1. The British F3 European champion was announced as the third McLaren driver this week, effectively making Jenson Button finally redundant at Woking.
The young Canadian Stroll has already competed at Daytona with the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team, alongside ex F1 driver Alexander Wurz, current Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley and WTCC champion Andy Priaulx, at the Floridian circuit in 2016. The quartet finished fifth overall.
Yet, Stroll does not think the endurance race will benefit his younger colleague Norris much: “It’s a great race, no question, really cool, but it does not bring much.”
“Sure, [it] was a lot of fun, especially when you’re in a competitive car, with good team mates. It’s fun to sit in a completely different car. But the whole thing is really just for fun, nothing more. I do not know if it is very useful for training.”
This is somewhat at odds with his previous quotes at the time after the classic endurance race of 2016 when he admitted that racing over such long periods “required full concentration and there was no time to take a break, which was good practice for me.” when discussing his season in F3 later that year.
The teen was circumspect when asked if he’d ever return himself to Daytona saying: “If I have time, then maybe. But I have other priorities in the winter break. It’s good to not drive a race car in between.”
Clearly the lad has had plenty to do in the previous off seasons using his fathers fortunes to buy F1 seat time from Williams using their old F1 cars. For others less privileged, the normal method at achieving a drive in F1 requires plenty of seat time throughout the year. Norris certainly see’s things differently to Stroll:
“For me, that’s a good gauge to test my fitness and maintain my racing edge. These are important factors before the 2018 season.”
It is thought that McLaren’s Eric Boullier has had involvement in getting Norris the seat at Daytona with a view to move the youngster into F2 next year. Also, the opportunity to see first hand how a 2 time champion in Alonso operates in race conditions affords Norris insight into the veteran of F1 methods of racing.
For Alonso, Daytona is another taste of life beyond the F1 paddock, just like Indy 500 he contested earlier this year:
“This will be my first time in a prototype, so this is a good experience that will surely help me if I should compete in other series in the future. Like the Indy 500, it’s about learning as much as possible, it’s a challenge for me, I want to leave my comfort zone and try something different than Formula One.
All the things I have to learn from scratch, such as handling the traffic, will help me to improve my driving skills.”
The prelude to the Rolex Daytona 24hrs known as “The roar before the 24” starts on Friday, January 5th leading up to the race proper on the 27th / 28th January.